On Thursday 21st June, the last and definitive leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 will set off from Gothenburg (Sweden) to The Hague (Holland), and will finally reveal the absolute winner of the round-the-world race. Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE, currently tied as leaders overall with Brunel and Dongfeng, are counting down the final hours until they initiate the fight to achieve the very first victory ever for Spain in the history of the race.
The final countdown has begun. There are just 24 hours until the Volvo Ocean Race fleet face the last, and most decisive leg of the 2017-18 edition. MAPFRE, Brunel and Dongfeng are the three teams tied equally on points at the top of the leaderboard, and all head into the leg with the same determination to claim the most highly-valued trophy in round-the-world racing. On board the Spanish boat, Xabi Fernández and his team are well aware that it is now in their hands to fight for final victory, and are absolutely determined to give everything to achieve their utmost objective.
The start is programmed for 1200 UTC, and will take the fleet from Gothenburg (Sweden) to The Hague (Holland), across a 700 nautical-mile obstacle course, where the seven teams will come face to face with a whole variety of conditions.
As the MAPFRE navigator, Joan Vila describes,
“It looks like we will be starting with a westerly wind, which will gradually shift to the north. We will first have to round a mark in Sweden, so the leg will take about three days to complete. Its location is still to be determined, but we should be sailing upwind to the first mark, and will then head back down into the Baltic Sea and to Denmark. We will then see if we are to come back to the Swedish mark, or if we head directly to The Hague.”
Once again the exclusion zones (mainly those situated in the North Sea due to maritime traffic, and the oil platforms) will be important features of the leg, and possibly one of the key factors when defining each team’s strategy, as Vila confirms,
“There will be a lot of different options in knowing how to pass the exclusion zones, and once we come towards the North Sea, we will have to decide which strategy to opt for and how to pass the traffic separation zone; whether we all pass it to the east, which means we will have to sail very close to shore, or if we opt to pass through the different gaps between each one.”
The leg will involve a total of three days’ sailing, and promises a range of conditions including strong winds in the first 24 hours, to very light conditions in the last few miles of the leg. The final sprint will most likely not offer much rest for the any of the seven participating teams.
Xabi, “We should all feel really satisfied and extremely proud of what we have achieved”
Ten months ago, when the fleet left Alicante on leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, the teams knew that this might possibly be one of the closest editions of the round-the-world race ever. What they probably didn’t expect was that they would be heading into the last leg of the race with three teams tied even in first place.
“We all expected that the end would be tight, but maybe not quite this much. I suppose it is close because after nearly a year of racing, every team is where they deserve to be, and we are clearly three teams that deserve to be where we are,” stated the team Skipper Xabi Fernández.
MAPFRE, who have already claimed three victories during the race, and have been the team to have led the overall scoreboard the longest to date, are well aware that it is now utterly in their hands to reach the Hague as champions. During the last few days in Gothenburg, the team has worked non-stop to prepare for the intense battle that will await from the very first minute.
As the team’s skipper explains,
“To win this last leg, and to beat Dongfeng and Brunel, the start will naturally be extremely important, as well as the first 24 hours, so we will have to try to stay ahead from the very first moment, and not make many mistakes. Joan is preparing the leg really well, and we hope that with this preparation we will have a little advantage, to win the leg.”
“I suppose we will be happier if we win the leg, but I also think that we should feel really satisfied and extremely proud of what we have achieved. It has been a good Volvo Ocean Race for us in nearly all the legs, we have fought very hard, and as a team we have also competed really well. We didn’t make changes and I think that has been one of our strong points during the race.”
The leg is due to start on Thursday at 14:00 h, with three intense days of sailing awaiting the fleet to the Hague, and where the winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 will finally be revealed.